I like... iced tea

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Title: I like... iced tea
Creator: Hobrock
Date(s): late 1990s
Medium: online
Fandom: X-Files
External Links: The Cave's X-Files Commentary Archives: MSR: Iced tea, Archived version
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I like... iced tea is an essay by Hobrock.

It is one of many essays at The Cave's X-Files Commentary Archives.


The most notorious X-Files conversation, and what can only be considered ground zero for the Mulder and Scully romance phenomenon, is a little snippet that has came to us via the first season episode *Tooms.

Every shipper worth his or her money has memorized this particular scene--measuring a scanty three minutes in length--during which some rather memorable insight into each of the partner's character is displayed. For those of you without the benefit of the episode or a particularly fuzzy memory (guilty as charged) I have taken the time to highlight the lines for you (okay, I stole them off a script site):

(Surveillance vehicle outside of Toom's temporary residence)

MULDER: They're out to put an end to the X-Files, Scully. I don't know why, but any excuse will do. Now, I don't really care about my record, but you'd be in trouble just for sitting in this car and I'd hate to see you to carry an official reprimand in your file because of me. (Scully sighs.)

SCULLY: Fox... (Mulder laughs. Scully looks at him.)

MULDER: And I... I even made my parents call me Mulder. So... Mulder.

SCULLY: Mulder, I wouldn't put myself on the line for anybody but you. (They look at each other.)

MULDER: If there's an ice tea in that bag, could be love. (She takes out the drink.) SCULLY: Must be fate, Mulder. Root beer.

You would be very uninspired to not see some very strong emotions at play here (especially from Mulder who was excellently portrayed by David Duchovny). And with the word 'love' mentioned it is not entirely difficult to come to the conclusion that there are all the elements of a quiet romance brewing between our protagonists.

Contrary to how we know the universe works, and especially The X-Files, the simplest answer does not seem to be the correct one. We are seeing very intense emotions at work, but most likely not in the direction of love or romance as we label it in society today. Mulder, for most of his life, has been alone. He has been so from his adolescence through his FBI career, whether self-imposed or enforced. Mulder's loner attitude still rears up it's head even in the sixth season whether it is going of on a tangent or keeping certain information privy only to himself. We've also come to discover as viewers that Mulder has been hurt very badly in the past when he has risked his trust, let alone his heart. It seems unlikely that he would be willing to risk either after Diane Fowley or Phoebe Green. It would come with more potential risks then benefits to him emotionally and to Scully physically with the conspiracy threat (One Breath is an excellent example of this).

Mulder, feeling trapped in every sense, attempted to flee the situation. We see when Scully initiates the conversation, Mulder makes her refer to him by his last name. By doing so he was trying to deter her from heading towards a more personally intimate conversation. Scully doesn't end her train of thought, though, and continues on to state that she would only put herself on the line for Mulder. But this is where he breaks habit. Rather then trying to joke away the situation, which usually ends up at Scully's expense, he takes on a confrontational stance.

"If there's an ice tea in that bag, could be love," comes the unlikely response. The statement is one part jest and two parts attack. Mulder, in order to save himself from a perceived threat, entered a preverbal staring contest with Scully. His statement could just as easily have been, "Oh no, you won't. That's not really what you mean." Mulder was, in his own way, attempting to get Scully to back down. By bringing love into the equation he is trying to scare her off. They both know love is not what Scully is talking about. Here is the key: Mulder is attempting to have Scully take back her comments by exaggerating them. It is something akin to McCarthyism (stay with me on this one). A politician with Socialist tendencies--or a feeling that the government is the caretaker of its citizens--would be quick to downplay, if not completely recant, his governing views if he were accused of being a Communist. By stating that Scully's feelings are akin to love, he is trying to push Scully into also recanting. And this does work to a point. Scully simply changes the subject telling Mulder, "You're delirious. Go home and get some sleep."

By making an off-handed comment Mulder managed to avoid any real vulnerability and, with it, any emotional openness. This stance, along with some unfortunate results at times, has become the forte of their relationship.


The essay's author included two fans' comments to this post.

Reply: I love root beer by Patterson: You say Potayto, I say potahto. Hobrock, you scared me! I thought that you were headed down shipper lane at first. Glad to know some things can still be counted on. I adore this scene. I think it's one of the first times, if not the first time Scully really opens up and says what she feels instead of trying to convince him he's crazy or delusional or wrong. I think you're analysis is dead on. I think that's exactly why he said what he did and why he commonly refers to love and/or sex in jokes. It's like if you say it, it diffuses it. But I also think he very well may really like her if not love her on some level at this point (Note: acknowledging a love feeling does not make me a shipper). No one has ever treated him with the respect and loyalty that she has and I think that's really messing with his head at this point. In essence, Scully rocked his world, to use the language from the street.
I Love... liverwurst by Zuffy: The UST is a feature of the conflicts between them and within each of them. I don't think it takes any of the obvious and somewhat trite forms that one sees more commonly on television. I agree completely, Hobrock, that Scully spends no time sitting around wondering whether Mulder loves her. I doubt she uses that word to herself, either with respect to his feelings or to hers, focusing instead on terms like trust and belief.

What's just beneath the surface, though, is a sense of physical attraction, separate from and largely subsumed by the intense emotional bond between them. It's there, Mulder realizes it and I suspect Scully does, too, but they both put it away again and again. It starts with the bite scene in *Pilot with Mulder's startled reaction and more-or-less instant decision that he doesn't know what's going on with this woman, but he is *not going to make a move. Because they both know that potential and they have both put it aside, they can joke about it on Mulder's terms. If they didn't recognize the potential, I think the jokes would be unfunny. Bring it up, defuse it, move on leaving just a lingering scent of the forbidden. The forbidden is sexy, isn't it? And I agree with you on Detoured that Scully's sudden forwardness sent Mulder into retreat. She's so reserved, he must have been shocked that she might be ready to move out of the comfortable zone.

As for the scene in Tooms, I have always been amazed at the undercurrents. I agree with you to an extent about his reaction. He is trying to get her to back off, but only if the basis for her allegiance is misguided (in his view) personal attachment to him. I don't think he assumes her statement is *not about love; he looks at her in total amazement after her statement. (Patterson is dead on about her 'rocking his world.') I think it scares him and he is afraid as much for her as for him. To my ear, his rejoinder means "if this is about love, don't do it." But if her willingness to put herself on the line is out of commitment to what they do, then I think he very much wants her to stay.